December 16, 2018

Finding the Right Education for Your Child

Photos courtesy of Brawerman Elementary School

Tamara Miller brings a wealth of experience to her new role as principal of Brawerman East Elementary School, located on the campus of historic Wilshire Boulevard Temple in Koreatown. 

She spent the past 18 years at Brentwood School, where she taught science for 12 years. For six of those years she was the chair of the science department, and after earning a doctorate in educational leadership from UCLA she was promoted to academic dean in 2012. 

In an interview with the Journal, Miller said she has benefitted from being the mother of two teenagers. “When I think of all the choices that our kids are thinking about for seventh grade, I can talk to parents authentically about the process. [We] toured a lot of schools just to get the sense of what was out there and what would be a good fit for our family.”

One of her sons is a junior at Brentwood School and the other just started ninth grade at Milken Community Schools. “For him, being at a Jewish school, I know he’s learning about the holidays, the importance of community,” she said. “It’s really nice having at least one child carry on with their Jewish education.”

Miller said parents often feel their children should be at the same school, but “sometimes two schools or three schools is best for the whole family. The reality is that two very different kids will be doing two very different things, even if they’re at the same school.”

To find the right school, a parent needs to look at who their child is, what kind of student they are, what their interests are, and where they can grow, Miller said. They also should consider the school’s mission and vision. Basically, Miller said, families need to do their homework. “That includes going on the school tours, going to the parent coffees, doing shadow days with other students and schools, talking to families that are enrolled, talking to kids that are enrolled, finding out about what the schedule looks like.” 

[At Brawerman], there’s an emphasis on tikkun olam, social justice, innovation and thinking about things outside of 

the traditional academic program. I think we’re redefining what traditional means now.” — Tamara Miller

There are many little things that come with the application and interview process, especially for parents going through it for the first time with their first child. Miller hopes her background as an educator in secondary schools, and as a parent, will help her to shed some light on the process.

“When the kids are in kindergarten, first, second and third grade, we’re not just thinking about secondary schools, though,” Miller said. “We try and save that process for end of fifth grade, beginning of sixth grade, when it’s appropriate.”

Miller said she has seen the influence that her own children’s teachers have had on them, as well as the value of having a strong academic program. “It shapes kids,” she said. “It makes them think about things outside of their lives. I especially like the Brawerman education, because there’s an emphasis on Tikkun Olam, social justice, innovation and thinking about things outside of the traditional academic program. I think we’re redefining what traditional means now.”

Brawerman Elementary School was founded by Wilshire Boulevard Temple in 1999 when it opened its Westside location at Barrington Avenue and Olympic Boulevard. Brawerman Elementary School East welcomed its first students in 2011 and graduated its first sixth-grade class in June.   

“I have been at Brawerman East since June and have seen firsthand the great work that is happening in and out of the classroom,” Miller said. “The curriculum is rich with science, math, reading and writing, social studies, innovation, art, P.E. and Hebrew. Engagement, love of learning, and self-confidence stem from a rigorous and well-planned curriculum. I don’t actually need to change or adjust the curriculum. I will continue to build upon the amazing programs that are already in place.”

This story appeared in the 2018 Education Guide edition of the paper.